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'Flash' wipes away suspense

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It's the first day of school, and Greg Kinnear, as a college engineering professor, writes the word "ethics" on the blackboard for his students to ponder.

Obviously, this will be important to this character and to his story. It's also just one of many examples of director Mark Abraham's spelling out for the audience exactly where he's going with Flash of Genius , a bland David-and-Goliath tale of corporate greed and deception that's based on true events.

Mr. Kinnear stars as Dr. Robert Kearns, a husband and father of six and inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper in 1960s Detroit.

Someone had to figure it out -- the guys at the Ford Motor Co. had been tinkering for a while with little success. When Kearns came along, the company liked his makeshift contraption so much, it stole the thing away from him and perfected it without giving him credit (or a cent).

The movie is the long, arduous story of the legal battles and family sacrifices Kearns made in the name of truth, justice and all that is right in this world. There's something quaint about how old-fashioned his fight is -- and Mr. Kinnear is so aw-shucks, it sounds like he's doing a Jimmy Stewart impression.

Mr. Kinnear is stronger toward the end of the movie, when Kearns nervously serves as his own lawyer in court; the absurdity of these scenes provides some desperately needed laughs.

We know that he fought and won, and Mr. Abraham does little to boost suspense.

As Kearns' lawsuit drags on, Ford executives just want to make it go away, and they offer him increasing amounts of life-changing money. Kearns won't even begin to consider it, which is hard to fathom, and in feel-good film fashion, his kids support him all the way. There's a fine line between standing up for yourself and selfishness, and Flash of Genius drives right over it.

'FLASH OF GENIUS'

THE VERDICT: ** out of ****


INDUSTRY RATING: PG-13 for brief strong language


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